Before the COVID-19 outbreak, I was enjoying my junior year, despite its challenges. As it is for most juniors, this was my most academically challenging year. In addition to my course load, I was active in several clubs and looking forward to end-of -year activities.
A few weeks ago, my biggest worry was when I would do corrections for my AP physics test. Now, my concerns are more about my uncertainty of the future.
Sometime at the beginning of the new year, I began hearing from friends about something called the coronavirus. I had yet to see it as a serious threat and people were taking it lightly. I continued my activities as usual through the next couple of months, competing with my high school bowling team at the state championships and with academic clubs and qualifying for state in many of those as well.
By the time places began closing and taking precautions due to the coronavirus, my school had just started its third trimester. Universities started canceling classes and sent their students home, including my brother. At the time, most people I knew – myself included – thought they were overreacting. Then we started hearing about high schools closing.
On March 12, my school announced it would be closed for the next couple of weeks and we would use NTI (the Non-Traditional Instruction Program) instead. The next day, our last day of in-person classes, was the day President Trump declared this a national emergency.
At first, I thought we would do two or three weeks of online classes before returning to school. Soon, all the events I had planned were being canceled, from college days and shadow visits to state conferences. I could not go for my driver’s test because of precautions being taken for coronavirus.
I had been looking forward to competing with my clubs, like Future Business Leaders of America and Science Olympiad, because I have a limited amount of time left to be involved, as I will be graduating next year. I now officially know I will not be returning to school this school year. Events like prom and graduation, if occurring at all, will be postponed. Activities like school plays and, in my case, band concerts for which students have been preparing for all year will not take place. Some sports are losing their entire seasons.
Luckily for my school system, we have been using NTI days for several years. This allowed us to resume classes immediately online, unlike many districts that had to postpone classes for a few weeks. Nonetheless, it is still a major adjustment to make to go from in-person classes to online learning.
Many of my teachers typically lecture for several days and give assignments every now and then. With NTI, assignments are more frequent from most of my teachers so they can ensure students are engaging in the lessons. Some classes are especially challenging for teachers to convert to an online platform; my band director has had to get creative.
Part of adjusting to NTI includes adapting my schedule. I probably spend half my average day on a computer. The increase in screen time does not pair well with the fact that I am prone to frequent headaches. It also is hard to focus on assignments from home for long periods of time, being surrounded by distractions.
In addition, my internet is not always reliable, so I try to work when no one else is using it. With a brother in college and a mom who works from home, this can be hard to do without doing quite a bit of my work later at night. This has made it hard for me to establish a solid routine.
Despite the adaptations I have had to make, the recent change in environment has not been entirely bad. I have had the opportunity to spend more time with my family. I now see my brother every day, when under normal circumstances, I would only see him once or twice a month through the school year.
Even though I do not have the freedom to interact with other people in person, I have had the freedom to make my own schedule and complete my work in a less strict timeframe, which has had its benefits. Still, I hope for the current situation to be resolved as soon as possible.
While I know it is important to social distance and prevent spreading the virus to those at higher risk, I also know the current conditions are taking a toll on people, including me. I miss interacting with people and participating in activities I am missing out on. I may have adapted to and learned from this experience, but I anxiously await a return to normalcy.
After this outbreak, normal may take on a different appearance. Whatever the new normal looks like, I look forward to moving past this pandemic.
Lauren Shackleford is a junior who attends Corbin High School (Corbin Independent). She is a member of the 2019-2020 Commissioner’s Student Advisory Council, a group that provides input to the Kentucky commissioner of education.